Thursday, February 2, 2017

The hard work of love

Back in November I received an email asking if I might be willing to help develop a script for a play. I love to write (you might already know this about me) and I love a challenge, so I said yes.

A week or so later I met with two women from a little all-volunteer community theater in a neighboring town, and they explained that every year the theater puts on a free performance for its season ticket holders, but that the woman usually in charge had been transferred to another town.

She had left us with a title -- Love Hurts -- a date -- the weekend before Valentine's Day -- and a setting -- the waiting room of an urgent care center; it would be our job to come up with a set of songs, a group of characters which could be played by the usual suspects (a group of singing actors familiar to regular attendees) and a script.

So together we pored through song books and began choosing songs, devising characters and imagining a rough outline of a plot, and at the end of the meeting it was my job to go home and write a script that would tie it all together.

By mid-December I had a script written, and copies went out to all the actors, and boy howdy -- let the drama begin! First the director got pneumonia and was pretty much out of commission for a month, so rehearsals didn't begin until mid-January.  Two of the actors were buying a house and missed rehearsals either for dealing with realtors or refinishing their new floors; several of the actors came down with the flu; we had a lot of trouble finding a pianist and the one we did find had to eventually be replaced -- and that was just last week.

Two different men we found to play the role of the wise janitor (who has a solo and two rather important soliloquys) quit before ever even attending a rehearsal.  The choreographers backed out. One of the quartets who were supposed to wander through backed out. The director's laptop, which she'd been using as a prop for the receptionist's desk, was stolen from the prop room, and the stethoscopes she was collecting kept disappearing -- it really seemed this show would never take off.

But a friend of mine stepped in to be the janitor; two talented cast members took over the music; two more talented cast members crafted up some fun dance moves for us; another laptop was found and somehow things began coming together in spite of it all. And last night -- one week before our final dress rehearsal -- we finally had the entire cast on stage together.  Last night was the first time it actually looked like a play. And watching it I realized how incredibly hokey it seems -- I even broke into giggles during one of the janitor's monologues.

Because in times like these, love -- and community theater -- seem a bit like a foolish dream; like a bit of fiddling while Rome burns.  In the immortal words of a friend who responded to a recent facebook post I wrote, calling people to be more respectful of our compatriots on the other side of the bubble, "It's all lollipops and rainbows." But in reality, it's not.  It's grit, it's hard work, it's staying on the path when the going gets rough, it's soldiering through, hanging in there, improvising when necessary, reaching out for help, and working together in the hope and belief that there really is joy and beauty and promise and new life somewhere in the world, and that that is worth going the distance.

This may not be a great production. I may not have written an award-winning script (ya think?), the dancing may not be perfectly coordinated, the voices may not always sing on key, the actors may flub their lines on occasion.  But watching it, I see it as an act of love; a gift to a community of people who long to believe, if only for an evening, in happy endings.

Yes, love is hard work.
Do it anyway.

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